Hikes West of Jasper
Jasper National Park contains some of the finest hiking in the world, hands down, and lots of it. It easily holds its own when compared to all the other terrific places to hike in the Rockies, including Banff National Park and Kananaskis country.
Just west of Jasper, the Miette River borders a continuation of the Pyramid Bench, with more lakes. It’s a beautiful area, and great for classic Jasper National Park vacation hikes. Below is a guide to some of the best hiking west of Jasper townsite.
The Whistlers Trail
For this hike you’ll be taking Trail 5. The trail is about 7.9 km one way, taking about 3-5 hours to hike up, and 2-3 hours down.
To get to the trailhead, go 1.8 km south on Highway 93, then take a right onto Whistlers Road (you’ll see a sign for the campground and the Jasper Tramway) and follow it 2.8 km to a primitive access road on the left, leading a short distance to the parking lot.
This relatively steep trail gains 1200 m of elevation, so you must be fit. Your hiking effort will be rewarded by panoramic views of the Miette Valley and Athabasca Valley, plus a chance to a wide variety of Canadian Rockies ecosystems. Hiking just the opening kilometre or two will reward you with a rich wildflower display in July.
About one-third into the hike, the grade chills and you walk under the cables of the Jasper Tramway. Another two hundred metres below the summit you’ll pass the upper Jasper Tramway terminal. From there to the top you’ll have a lot of company, because the trail is used heavily by tramway passengers. In this section, stay on trail to protect the lovely alpine vegetation from trampling.
Caledonia Lake and the Twenty-mile Loop
On this hike you’ll take Trail 3 for 4.2 km to Caledonia Lake and back for a total of 2-3 hours. There is also an option for a much longer 24.6km hike to Minnow Lake, which takes 7-9 hours.
Find the trailhead along Cabin Creek Road near the west side of Jasper townsite. You’ll watch for an unpaved road that branches to the right. The trailhead kiosk up just a little further, by the gate.
An easy uphill hike of 1.8 km brings you to Marjorie Lake, a small lake surrounded by trees that reflects the awesome peaks to the south of the Miette River. It’s 2 km farther to Caledonia Lake, a good half-day hike and popular with local runners and cyclists.
From there the hike steepens somewhat toward Minnow Lake and the rest of the Twenty-mile Loop. On the return hike, stay on Trail 3 across the low dam on Cabin Lake.
Virl, Dorothy and Christine lakes
For this Jasper hike you take Trails 3e and 3f for a total of 8.4 km, which is between 4-6 hours of hiking.
You’ll find the trailhead for this hike about 11.5 km west of Jasper off Highway 16.
This hike is steep in some places, with an elevation gain of 250 m. But the hike to Christine Lake is well worth the effort, giving way to great views, awesome for taking in Jasper scenery. Start this hikealong the railway access road, crossing the tracks (looking both ways first, of course) to reach a bridge over the Miette River.
The trail on the far side runs along the hill for a while, then switchbacks and climbs up quickly. At km 2 the trail drops into Minaga Creek, then climbs again past the junction of the backpacking route to Elysium Pass. At the next junction, Trail 3f leads to Virl Lake. Trail 3e continues 500 m to Dorothy Lake, which frames a view of Mt. Tekarra, and another 300m farther to the rocky shore of Christine Lake.
Remember that the temperature will fall as you rise in elevation, so bring extra clothing and a rain coat. Bring plenty of drinking water; none is available on the trail. Warning: in spring and fall, when the upper part of this trail is snow-covered, there is avalanche danger.